Milton Ritchie

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Milton Ritchie

R.F.D., Brinkley, Arkansas

Age: 78

"I was born in Marietta Hotel at Marietta, Georgia. The hotel belong to

Milton Stevens. He had two sons. One died fo I was born and Pink was in

the war. Mistress Thursday was old moster's wife. We all had to refugee.

My sister was down in the bottoms with all the slaves and cattle when

she died. She took sick and died suddenly. They heard the soldiers was

coming to Atlanta and knowed they would come by Marietta. Moster Stevens

sold the hotel just at the beginning of the war. He moved to the

country. Mama cooked at the hotel and in the country both. The hotel was

a brick house on the railroad where they fed a lot of people every day.

Moster Milton used to take me bout where he went, rode me on his foot

when I was a baby. After they went to the farm every evening Mistress

Thursday come get me, take me to the house. She got bread and butter,

sugar, give it to me and I slept on a pallet in her room. I never did

know why she done that. Mama had a little house she slept in. She

cooked. They never whooped me. They never whooped mama.

"One time the Federal army camped not a great ways from us. One time I

was playing in a gully--big red ditch. I spied the Federals coming. I

flew out the ditch up the hill and across the field. They was calvary

men camped back of our field. We all left that place and refugeed to

another place. They didn't burn the house but they sent two bullets

through the walls or that house. 'Old Granny' was too old to refugee.

She kept living by herself in a house on the place. They never bothered

her. She wasn't kin to us but Moster Milton owned her and kept her fed.

We raised sugar-cane, hogs, corn, and goobers. The sugar-cane had

no top. I got a whooping every Monday. Mama whoop me. We go drink

sugar-cane juice in the trough at the mill. We got up in there with our

feet. They had to wash out the troughs. It was a wood house. It was a

big mill. He sold that good syrup in Atlanta. It wasn't sorghum. The men

at the mill would scare us but we hid around. They come up to the house

and tell on us.

"We had moved from the farm when they burned Atlanta. From the place

where Moster Milton refugeed I could hear a roaring all the time nearly,

sometimes clearer, and the roaring was broke sometimes.

"Moster Milton ran the farm when he run the hotel cept I was born at

the hotel and Mistress Thursday lived there then too. He had all Negro

overseers. Each overseer had a certain lot of hands to do what he told

them. He didn't have no trouble. He told them if they made something for

them and him too it would be fine, if they didn't work they would have

to do without. They had plenty they said.

"My mama was sold on the block in Virginia when she was twelve years

old. She and her little brother sold the same day. Moster Milton Stevens

bought her. The same man couldn't buy them both, didn't have money

enough. They had a little blanket and she and her brother cut it into

and put it around their shoulders. They been sleeping together and

Moster Milton brought her home on his horse up behind him. Her mama was

crying when she left her. She never heard nor seen none of her folks no

more she told me. (The old Negro cried.)

"My mama and papa was dark but both was mixed. They never told me if it

was white or Indian. Papa was a tall, big bony man. Mama wasn't so big

and stouter. He never tried to get away from his owners. He belong to

Sam Ritchie five or six miles away. I never beard much about them. They

had Negro overseers. Papa was a foreman. He tanned the cow hides and

made shoes for all the hands on Ritchie's place. He made our shoes over

there too. They said Stevens and Ritchies didn't keep bad dogs. Mistress

Eliza Ritchie was a Stevens before she married. Papa never was sold. He

said they was good to them. Mama was named Eliza too and papa George


"When freedom was on papa went to Atlanta and got transportation to

Chattanooga. I don't know why. He met me and mama. She picked me up and

run away and met him. We went in a freight box. It had been a soldier's

home--great big house. We et on the first story out of tin pans. We had

white beans or peas, crackers and coffee. Meat and wheat and cornbread

we never smelt at that place. Somebody ask him how we got there and he

showed them a ticket from the Freedmans bureau in Atlanta. He showed

that on the train every now and then. Upstairs they brought out a stack

of wool blankets and started the rows of beds. Each man took his three

as he was numbered. Every night the same one got his own blankets. The

room was full of beds and white guards with a gun over his shoulder

guarded them all night long. We stayed there a long time--nearly a year.

They tried to get jobs fast as they could and push em out but it was

slow work. Mama got a place to cook at--Mrs. Crutchfield's. She run a

hotel in town but lived in the country. We stayed there about a year.

Papa was hired somewhere else there.

"Papa got us on a farm in middle Tennessee after that. We come to Mr.

Hooper's place and share cropped one year, then we went to share crop

for Wells Brothers close to Murfreesboro. I been on the farm all my life

since then.

"The Ku Klux never pestered us. I heard about them.

"The Welfare helps me and I would do work if I could get work I can do.

I could do light work. Times is hard. Hard to get a living. I don't mind

work. I couldn't do a day's work now.

"The young generation is beyond me. I don't be about them much."

Milton Hammond Minerva Bendy facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail